Former Bosnian Serb army commander General Ratko Mladic slammed the United Nations’ Yugoslav war crimes tribunal as a “satanic court” and refused to testify as a defence witness for his former political master, Radovan Karadzic.
A courtroom reunion of the two alleged chief architects of Serb atrocities during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war lasted only about an hour as Mladic repeatedly told judges he would not answer former Bosnian Serb President Karadzic’s questions, citing ill health and an unwillingness to risk incriminating himself.
The brief hearing marked the first time the two men had been seen together publicly since the aftermath of the war, but Mladic’s refusal to answer any questions meant it cast no new light on the conflict that left 100,000 people dead.
Mladic was to have been one of Karadzic’s last defence witnesses. Karadzic’s attorney Peter Robinson said the former Bosnian Serb leader plans to testify in his own defence in February.
Both Karadzic and Mladic disappeared for years after the guns fell silent in Bosnia as they attempted to evade extradition to face trial in The Hague. Karadzic was captured in Serbia in 2008, disguised as a bearded new-age healer, and Mladic was detained nearly three years later.
Both men are on trial separately for crimes including genocide. Both insist they are innocent – arguing that everything they did during the war was intended to defend the Serb people. They face life sentences if convicted.
Mladic initially refused to testify, then said he would speak if officials fetched his dentures from his cell.
But with his false teeth in place, Mladic again refused to testify and despite issuing a subpoena for Mladic to appear in court, judges would not compel him to give evidence.
Mladic’s lawyer, Branko Lukic, told judges Mladic could not testify because he suffers from a stroke-induced condition he called “deception of memory” and can’t tell fact from fiction.
The two former allies barely made eye contact during the hearing. Karadzic was businesslike, while Mladic asked to read out a seven-page hand-written statement, but the judges refused.
As he walked past Karadzic on his way out of court, Mladic said in Serbian: “Radovan, thank you and sorry. The idiots would not let me. They defend Nato bombs.”